Wondering where to find capers in the grocery store? You can probably follow your instinct. Capers have a lot in common with olives, including where you’ll find them in the grocery aisles, so you’ll find capers in one of two places:
- The pickles and olives aisle
- The international foods aisle (search near Italian and Mediterranean foods)
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What Are Capers?
While you’ll find them near the olives, capers are something else entirely.
Capers and unripened green buds of the capparis spinosa plant, and when we cook with them, they’ve already been picked, dried and preserved. Capers are often pickled in brine, and that’s why you’ll typically find capers in the pickles and olives aisle of your grocery store. Capers can also be cured in salt.
Whether brined or cured, most recipes with capers feature them as a savory, pickly taste.
What Do Capers Taste Like?
Capers taste a bit like green olives, except with lemony and floral undertones. You might also notice a bit more tang than olives.
Capers taste like olives, yes, but they’re often a much stronger flavor. It’s best to use them sparingly in meals so they don’t overpower your other ingredients, and it’s why we don’t recommend using them as an olive replacement.
You shouldn’t sub capers for olives, but what should you sub for capers if you don’t have them around the house? Keep reading, we’ve got some suggestions.
Are Capers Olives?
Capers are not olives. Grab one from the jar to taste test, and you might see why people think capers are olives (or related to olives, at least).
Even though capers aren’t olives, if you like olives, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy recipes with capers (we have a few below for you, too).
What Are Non-Pareil Capers?
Non-pareil capers have no equal. That’s not an opinion, it’s what “non-pareil” means (it’s one of many French terms used to describe capers by size):
- Grusas (larger than 14mm)
- Fines (11 to 13mm)
- Capotes (9 to 11 mm)
- Capucines (8 to 9mm)
- Surfines (7 to 8mm)
- Non-pareil (under 7mm)
Non-pareil capers are the smallest on the market and are incredibly delicate, with a firmer texture. While non-pareil capers “have no equal,” it’s a matter of taste which ones you prefer. Smaller buds have a more subdued taste. Going back to try a different kind of caper? Don’t forget to snap your receipt in the Fetch app when you’re done at the grocery store.
Are Capers Vegan?
Capers are vegan. You might have already guessed that by learning that capers are the buds of a plant, but there’s a very important reason people ask if capers are vegan: they have a flavor profile a bit like sardines or anchovies.
So, even though capers are vegan, you might want to keep a jar on hand if you have a recipe calling for preserved fish like anchovies or sardines. Capers are not a perfect substitute, but they can do the job. They also tend to keep better and longer, if you’re trying to trim down that monthly grocery bill.
Are Capers Gluten Free?
Capers are gluten free. If you’re concerned about a gluten-free diet, capers can bring a savory flavor to the table.
Do Capers Need To Be Refrigerated?
Capers should be refrigerated after opening. It won’t hurt to keep your capers in the fridge before opening, but you can also store them in a cool, dry place. The brine ensures your capers will last a long time (they may even last past the “best by” date).
How Long Do Capers Last After Being Opened?
Do capers need to be refrigerated? Yes. But then how long can you trust them to be good? After opening capers, they should last for a year, just like your olives, pickles and other brined foods.
This is just a guideline, though, and capers might last more than a year after being opened. Here are a few tips to know whether your capers have gone bad:
- If they are unopened but the lid is no longer flat, has a popped safety seal or is otherwise misshapen, your capers are probably past the point of no return and should be tossed.
- Capers should be a dull green color. If you notice black or brown ones, toss the jar.
- Even though they’re stored in brine, mold can still be a concern. Any presence of mold should have you shopping for new capers.
- Any odor other than the salt/vinegar should send your capers to the trash can.
Can Dogs Have Capers?
No, under no circumstances should your dog eat capers.
If your dog has eaten capers, you should contact your vet to determine what to do next.
What to Sub for Capers if Needed
If you don’t cook with them regularly, you might find yourself hunting for what to sub for capers. It depends on what feature of the capers you want to sub for:
- Size and shape? Green peppercorns are a good bet, especially if they’re pickled with salt and lemon.
- Unique flavor? Green olives, surprisingly. Salty, bitter and briney, green olives make a good substitute (but they’re larger, so sub one olive for two capers). Caper berries can also be a good substitute.
- Acidic undertones? Lemon juice is a solid replacement in recipes that crave capers’ acidity.
- Umami-like taste? Try anchovies, but use them sparingly unless you love the fish flavor. Artichoke hearts can work here as well.
Recipes with Capers
Do we have you excited to cook with capers? Or do you have a jar from an older recipe and want an excuse to use the capers in your fridge? We have a pair of recipes using capers for you.
Fried Capers Recipe
Frying capers opens up the flower buds, turning the petals into a crackly and crispy treat to pop into your mouth. Once fried, some of the vinegar flavor drops away and leaves you with a nutty, floral taste.
- Heat about ⅛ inch of oil (vegetable or olive) to 350°F
- Add your capers to the oil (beware splattering from the liquid in the capers)
- Fry until golden brown and crisp (2-3 minutes)
Remember how we said capers might not be a great fit for the charcuterie board? This fried capers recipe is an exception.
Capers Pasta Recipe
In 20 minutes, you can create a unique dinner with our capers pasta recipe. Prep and cook pasta however you prefer it, our capers pasta recipe is built around a garlic butter caper sauce.
- In a large skillet, melt 1 tbsp of butter over medium-high heat
- Add 4 cloves minced garlic. Saute the garlic til it’s golden brown
- Add ¼ cup of white wine and continue simmering
- Once the wine is reduced by half, add 1 cup of chicken broth or vegetable stock, the juice from half a lemon, and 2 tbsp capers.
- Raise the heat up to high and then boil until the sauce reduces by half again
- Add 1 tbsp of butter and let it melt.
- Toss your pasta in the delicious sauce you’ve made.
This could easily become one of our favorite recipes at Fetch.
Grocery Shopping is a Snap With the Fetch App
We hope you’re excited to try cooking with capers. Now that you know where to find capers in the grocery store and are equipped with some great capers recipes, open up the Fetch app and see which items on your grocery shopping list will earn you the most points. Using the Fetch app for your grocery lists is one of the easiest ways to be sure you remember to snap all your receipts and rack up those points.
David Fairbanks is a writer, science educator and Chicagoan fueled by coffee. He's written about everything from Ferraris to handcrafted pet urns to Superman, and he genuinely loves loyalty/rewards programs.
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